Anthony Bourdain & Kate Spade: Some thoughts on the standard social media reactions to suicide.

I’ve been quiet on this blog lately, for a lot of reasons. One of which is getting caught up on other projects, another of which is evaluating in which directions to move this space.

But I shared this on my Facebook, and it’s practically a novel, so I thought I’d share it here too. If you’ve been reading me for awhile, you’ve heard some of this before.

I lost my mother to suicide.

Social media, for me, has been a minefield the last couple of days.

I usually stay quiet at times like these, because the grief comes back all to easily, and with grief always comes a difficulty with words – a trouble expressing. And there is always that old truth; that it is easier to hide pain than to show it.

Which brings me to the first point I want to make.

A very popular response to news like this is to share National Suicide Prevention Hotlines. Which is fine, don’t get me wrong. Get that information out there. Keep sharing it. Having this resource is an excellent first step.

But I can’t help but think of all that I know about actually trying to access care. It is not as simple as calling a phone number. It is not an answer, as all those #chooselife and #dontgetsolowyoucantgetout hashtags imply.

The phone number is a crisis response. It’s a band-aid while you wait for surgery.

Trying to access care looks like months of waiting. Years of ‘trial and error’ with medications. Getting turned away from emergency services because the beds are full.

This is the unavoidable truth:

While we’ve seen radical advancements in technology and medical science, our response to mental health illnesses has remained relatively the same for hundreds of years. We isolate and segregate. We stigmatize. Did you know that schizophrenia occupies the most hospital beds compared to any other illness (even cancer), yet continually receives the lowest funding in research for new treatments?

Our mental healthcare system as a whole is desperately, dangerously, perilously underfunded.

A crisis hotline is a reactionary measure. Our entire mental healthcare system is based upon a reactionary response system. We react to mental illness. Until we stop reacting to mental illness, and start proactively building mental health – our system will remain overburdened. We need to restructure the entire system, and there are no easy answers. Hell, there aren’t even answers at this point.

The Suicide Prevention Hotline is a crisis intervention. It is not a solution.

Which brings me to the second point I’d like to make. The next most popular type of post is ‘I want my friends to know that I am always here to talk. Reach out if you need help.’

And I believe you. I know you mean it.

Giving help is far easier than asking for it, however. Reaching out, being vulnerable, is hard AF. We live in a society that has a strict view on what qualifies as ‘strength’, and vulnerability is rarely a part of that equation. For example, I am outspoken about how I lost my mother, and each and every time – whether it be on the news, on social media, in an article I’m writing, or speaking about it to an audience or just one person… requires me to be vulnerable.

It is terrifying every single time.

It doesn’t fit neatly into my script – the one where I am strong, happy, successful, capable, competent. It is uncomfortable to bear my scars publicly. It is uncomfortable because as a culture, we do not know how to deal with emotional pain. I can see when someone doesn’t know how to react, what to say, how to support me. Most often, I end up soothing whomever I’m talking to – letting them know it’s okay (it isn’t really) and that I’m okay (I am, even when I’m not. It’s okay to not be okay.)

For every time I speak out, there are 10 times I don’t.

Because it takes herculean amounts of energy and courage and willpower to do so. It is far easier to say nothing.

I was talking to a war veteran recently who had been newly diagnosed with PTSD. He was struggling with whether or not to tell his family. It didn’t fit into his script about himself. That he was the strong one, the rock for everyone else. It felt like his diagnosis ran in contradiction to that, that ‘PTSD’ took away ‘strength’ from his identity.

I suggested that maybe we have to redefine what constitutes as ‘strong’. Maybe being the best role model for his daughters didn’t mean being flawless, impervious in the face of trauma, but being courageous enough to show the cracks in the amour. To have the strength to show vulnerability and imperfection. To be honest about struggling, to be a living example that you don’t have to be ashamed to struggle. That we all struggle. To be human is to be perfectly imperfect. That we can value courage over perfection.

That maybe the measure of a man isn’t whether or not he struggles – because struggle is an inevitable side effect of living – but how he faces that struggle.

Because that’s a script that desperately needs changing.

We need to stop stigmatizing mental illness. People who suffer from mental illnesses are not ‘weak’. They are demi-gods who somehow manage to lift the unbelievable weight of suffering and pain and still go on to accomplish incredible things like founding a multi-billion fashion empire – or becoming an internationally-known personality traveling the world exploring culture, cuisine, and the human condition.

People living with mental illnesses are demi-gods who still manage to raise families, hold 9-to-5 jobs, live life, and do all the things the rest of us do in our day-to-day lives all while maintaining that herculean effort it takes to live with a mental illness.

People who die by suicide, did not die in ‘a moment of weakness’.

They were defeated by an illness.

I’d like to end with quote that I always share during the course of my Living with Suicide Loss volunteer work or at Suicide Prevention Awareness events. I found it on an online message board shortly after I lost my mother. I hope it speaks to you in this time of grief as deeply as it speaks to me:

“Our friend died on her own battlefield. She was killed in action fighting a civil war. She fought against adversaries that were as real to her as her casket is real to us. They were powerful adversaries. They took toll of her energies and endurance. They exhausted the last vestiges of her courage and strength. At last these adversaries overwhelmed her. And it appeared that she lost the war. But did she? I see a host of victories that she has won!

For one thing — she has won our admiration — because even if she lost the war, we give her credit for her bravery on the battlefield. And we give her credit for the courage and pride and hope that she used as her weapons as long as she could. No one knows what she suffered in the silent skirmishes. We shall remember not her death, but her daily victories gained through her kindnesses and thoughtfulness, through her love for family and friends, for food and books and music, for all things beautiful, lovely and honorable. We shall remember the many days that she was victorious over overwhelming odds. We shall remember not the years we thought she had left, but the intensity with which she lived the years she had!”

Grief Is Physical.

This post deals with suicide grief and contains triggers.  I know my last post was also about grief, and I try to avoid doing multiple posts in a row because it’s such a heavy topic – but it’s hitting me hard this year and permeating all the corners of my mind.


As many of you know, December 1st was the anniversary of my mother’s suicide.  It’s hard to get a description of what grief feels like, because you are trying to describe the indescribable.  The words we have are inadequate, but we try anyway.  Following is a quote about being a survivor of suicide, and what that feels like.  The last couple paragraphs speak to me.  When I came across it at the time, it was a relief to know that others have felt this way.  So I’m sharing it here.  I have often described grief as a hot coal sitting heavily in the center of my chest, burning me alive from the inside out.  Hurting so bad it’s hard to breathe.

“You know, you don’t really ever contemplate the meaning of gone before something like suicide.

Loss is not always just loss. Pain is not always just pain. Anger is not always just anger.

For me, these are things I don’t actually feel anymore. They are just a part of me. They just exist.

I don’t feel the brick on my chest or the lump in my throat. I don’t feel the sad and the hurt. I suppose I feel certain things, but not these. I think the most accurate way to describe it is that something was there and it no longer is.  It’s like I’m one of those anatomy models in your high school science classroom. Someone, the one, has come and taken away all the vital parts. It looks familiar, you can sort of recognize it but it just isn’t right.

My best friend once told me about love. She said ‘The hot, fire-y, bodice-ripping love is intense. It comes on strong but you can’t stoke a fire like that. It burns too hot, uses up all the fuel and goes out. Lasting love is more like this ember. It’s reached the core and is steady and strong. Yes, you have to maintain it but it will sustain you.’ A steady warmth at your core.

When you left, that ember morphed and took on a life of its own. Now I’m burnt, from somewhere near the bottom of my chin down my throat and over my chest; it spread out across my shoulders and stopped right above my belly button. All I feel I can do is stand there with my arms out and display this massive charred raw wound I’m left with. Naked, vulnerable and wounded. I breathe heavy. I stand there not showing anything, no pain or hurt is detectable on my face. Wanting more than anything for you to be standing there, in front of me to witness. Selfish…maybe…probably. It’s how I feel. I hate being the girl you left behind.


I had a link in here, but this draft has been in my folder for a long time and the original source can no longer be found, it was taken down by the hosting site.

It takes time, but we do heal in our way.  You don’t get over it, you get through it.  These kind of emotional scars, you do carry them with you for a lifetime.  You will always feel this loss, but instead of letting it go you sort of expand to make room for it.  You adjust to it’s weight.  And someday, it won’t hurt quite so bad. I’m still waiting for that someday.

And that’s okay.

Here are some affirmations from Toronto illustrator Hana Shafi that are making me feel better. To see more of her work check out her Tumblr and Instagram.

To Love

***Trigger warning: Suicide***

It’s the time of year when I’ve been thinking a lot about my mother’s death. The hardest thing about living with the loss of a loved one to suicide is the seemingly never-ending guilt and anger.

I replay the moments that torture me on a loop – thinking if only I could have done more. Gave more, done more, been more. I’m angry at myself for not being something that I could never be – that no one could ever be. I’m angry that sometimes I lashed out. That I wasn’t always perfect. That I wasn’t a never-ending well of giving.

That I couldn’t give all of me, all that I am, to save her.

It’s supposed to be easy to love someone.

I think sometimes, loving someone is the hardest thing you’ll ever do.

Want to get better understanding of what happened in Charlottesville? Read these.

Like the rest of the world, my eyes are on Charlottesville right now.

I wavered on whether to write about it – I’m not a political or cultural commentator, and people wiser than I are already discussing, writing, analyzing, and illuminating the topic. But I have a feeling that in order to achieve any sort of true change, and move forward, we have to – at least – speak out. To speak up for the people around us. To speak up for what we believe to be good, and true, and kind.

I’m shocked, because it’s impossible not to be shocked by such things, but I’m not surprised. In the Western world, racial tensions have always bubbled beneath the surface while we pat ourselves on the back for how far we’ve come.

We aren’t talking loudly enough about the socially-sanctioned violence that is being inflicted upon minorities. Now, but also before Charlottesville, from before Trump ever came along – although he seems to have fanned the flames.

So let’s talk. Or, in this case, read.

This is some reading that I’ve been doing, in my attempt to get some clarity about what happened. Hopefully, it’ll resonate with you too.

Charlottesville and the effort to downplay racism in America, by Jia Tolentino

“Charlottesville, Virginia, feels enough like Eden that it’s always been easy to hide a certain amount of blood […] What happened in Charlottesville is less an aberrant travesty in a progressive enclave than it is a reminder of how much evil can be obscured by the appearance of good.”

When Does a Fringe Movement Stop Being Fringe?, by Vann R. Newkirk II

“Even the most feared white supremacists in the lore of Jim Crow were just regular white men […] The disconnect in terms is understandable. It’s one thing to see the Red Shirts and Klansmen as bogeymen of the past and imagine their pogroms and mob clashes in the abstract. It’s another to see them manifest suddenly in violent strength, even if one subscribes to the idea that white supremacy runs deeper than caricatures of hooded rogues, and that its long tendrils have always animated politics and political violence in America.”

Charlottesville Is the America That Donald Trump Promised, by Jay Willis

Via GQ.

“Today marks the first fatal terrorist attack to occur on this president’s watch, but it did not come at the hands of that one religious group he denigrates at every opportunity, and whose adherents he wants desperately to ban from entering the country. Instead, it was committed by people who have been living among us all along, quietly waiting for an opportunity that, at long last, has arrived. Hate has always existed in America. Donald Trump just made it fashionable again.”

The Rise of the Violent Left, by Peter Beinart

“Antifa (short for anti-fascist) traces its roots to the 1920s and ’30s, when militant leftists battled fascists in the streets of Germany, Italy, and Spain. When fascism withered after World War II, antifa did too. But in the ’70s and ’80s, neo-Nazi skinheads began to infiltrate Britain’s punk scene. After the Berlin Wall fell, neo-Nazism also gained prominence in Germany. In response, a cadre of young leftists, including many anarchists and punk fans, revived the tradition of street-level antifascism.”

What Trump Gets Wrong About Antifa, by Peter Beinart

“Saying it’s (Antifa) a problem is vastly different than implying, as Trump did, that it’s a problem equal to white supremacism. Using the phrase “alt-left” suggests a moral equivalence that simply doesn’t exist […] antifa’s vision is not as noxious. Antifa activists do not celebrate regimes that committed genocide and enforced slavery. They’re mostly anarchists. Anarchism may not be a particularly practical ideology. But it’s not an ideology that depicts the members of a particular race or religion as subhuman [..] If Donald Trump really wants to undermine antifa, he should do his best to stamp out the bigotry that antifa—counterproductively—mobilizes against. Taking down Confederate statues in places like Charlottesville would be a good start.”

How “Nice White People” Benefit from Charlottesville and White Supremacy, by Lauren Duca

“Look, getting a job because your name is Geoff is not the same thing as joining the KKK, but that privilege is precisely the thing white supremacists were working to reassert in Charlottesville. They chanted about not being “replaced.” Their very existence is grounded in insisting on a moral claim to this country as a superior race. They want to continue having every possible advantage based on the color of their skin; that’s practically the mission statement. Most white people are at least aware that they benefit from white supremacy, and yet we stuff down these painfully obvious truths, tending to our cognitive dissonance like a paper cut that won’t heal, worrying more about being called racists than the effects of racism itself.”

It’s all Trumped up.

So the world is a crazy place right now. One of the things I hold dearest is a positive ideology. In general, I believe the world is a beautiful place and that people as a whole are good. The morning after the US election, those ideals took a bit of a hit.

Ok, a big hit.

I went back and forth on writing this because we’re inundated with news of the election. I also didn’t want to be divisive – the world is already divided enough right now. And we’re all really sick of it. Plus, there are people far more knowledgeable than me examining this from every angle.

But dammit, I have a few things to say.

I’m fairly liberal and when I was having conversations about this with some people – primarily strangers (remember when you were told not to talk to strangers? Oh the irony) – I was told one too many times that I watched too much CNN. Which grates my nerves to no end because it undermines me as an intelligent, educated, (and often even fact-checking) woman. It completely dismisses how I feel and think about something.

I’m heartbroken that Trump was elected. Take Hilary, and her flaws and un-likability out of it for a moment. Trump, to me, as not just the president-elect but even as a candidate is completely unacceptable. Who ran a campaign of hateful, misogynistic, racist, xenophobic rhetoric.  And I say that not because I’ve been taken in by propaganda – I say that because of things I’ve heard HIM say.

Real, recorded, on-the-record words that he has spoken.

And the reactions. I saw the people and the media treat this as if it were a cavalier thing. A minor transgression.

It’s not.

(Check out this article on false equivalency)

I’m heartbroken about the message this sends the world. I’m heartbroken about the message this sends my friends and neighbours, who are a variety of ethnicities and call a variety of countries home. I’m heartbroken for me, and my sisters, because of the message this sends us as women.

I’m personally heartbroken because this man is the embodiment of every man who thought he could talk over me. Every man who thought I didn’t know my place. Who thought my value was the measure of how I looked.

Who thought my body was public property.

I’m heartbroken to live in a world that would elevate a man like this to power – for any reason.

I’ve done a lot of drinking, and a bit of thinking, in the time since. I’ve come to some sort of a conclusion. All I can say is this: Hate can’t beat hate. Anger won’t cancel out anger. Fear only breeds more fear.

We have to love louder and harder and brighter than those who hate.

If you are saddened by what you see – go out and bring some love and kindness into the world to balance it out a little. Walk an old lady across the street. Rescue a cat from a tree. Hug an immigrant.

As someone brilliant once said, be the change you want to see in the world.

PS – This made me cry. One of the best things I’ve read since the election.

PPS – We have to have empathy for those whose opinions differ from our own. We won’t solve anything by ignoring them, or dismissing them as ‘backwards’, ‘outdated’, ‘redneck’, etc. The world is teetering on the edge of a dangerous precipice and we must start talking. We can’t hope to make things better if we can’t understand the other side.

PPPS – You should always get someone’s permission before hugging them.

PPPPS – Or so I’ve been told.


So remember when I wrote about how I was up for an Island Literary Award? Well… I took third place!


I’ve never entered any type of contest, ever. There was always too much going on at home to enter any school contests, the way that I grew up forced me to focus on simply surviving – I didn’t have the capacity for anything else.

The piece that I submitted is about the darker currents in my life – growing up with a mentally ill mother and the impact this had on our relationship, how it became frayed and fragmented over time. I open on her funeral, and then in between the footsteps leading me to her coffin I flashback to memories that build the understanding of the complexity of that relationship. All the ways she built me and broke me.

I put some pretty raw things in there. Being ripped from her arms screaming, packing my things into garbage bags, losing track of foster homes, learning in a group home from another kid how to break open a razor blade and self-harm as a coping mechanism. Breaking into her apartment to find out if she’s dead or alive.

I hid these things from the world for a long time. People who know me in the real world are shocked to find out about my childhood.”But you’re so happy and well-adjusted!” I don’t fit the mold of someone with my history. I’ve been told I’m a statistical anomaly. I think this means I’ve done a pretty good job of healing my wounds in the battlefield.

But I was scared of how others would view my history, afraid that they would see my emotional scars as a weakness. I think as I get older I’m learning that all these parts of me make me stronger, not weaker. I’m learning to embrace my story.

So this is really special to me.

Perhaps I’m starting to figure out to how to not just simply survive, but thrive. Although I suspect it will always feel as if I’m making it up as I go along.

It helps that I can buy wine now too.

Anyhow, now I have this award that I can frame and put up on my wall to use as armor against that tiny voice in the back of my head that whispers “cant’s, shouldnt’s, wont’s” in my ear. I can point to it and say “screw you, little voice. I do what I want now”.


For My Sister

On Pain

The edges,

my edges,

are all sharp.

They prod, and they cut.

They hurt me,

it hurts,

when I move,

when I think,

especially when I smile.

The edges,

my edges,

are all sharp.

Waiting to be dulled by happiness again.

This is for my sister. Sometimes you say the most beautiful things without even realizing it.

On Pain

I wrote this a little while ago, and it’s been in my drafts as a ‘bonus mid-week’ post – but this week’s been so busy that I’m hauling it out. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled funny next week.

I also thought it was suitable this week as I’m up for that literary award tomorrow for a serious piece I wrote about grief and healing. Wish me luck! 🙂

If you feel you need a funny this Friday morning, and are sad you didn’t find one here, email me and I will personally email you a funny just for you. It will be a screenshot of something, but it will be funny.

Mental illness is a civil war.

Next week they are doing an inquiry into my mother’s suicide, because she died in the hospital.  This post talks about suicide and mental illness and may contain triggers.  Feel free to skip it and come back when I’m funny again.  This is for all of you out there that might be missing someone you lost to mental illness. Or grieving at all.


This is a quote someone shared with me that represents the battle that so many face with mental illness.  I unfortunately don’t have a source.
“Our friend [your mother] died on her own battlefield. She was killed in action fighting a civil war. She fought against adversaries that were as real to her as her casket is real to us. They were powerful adversaries. They took toll of her energies and endurance. They exhausted the last vestiges of her courage and strength. At last these adversaries overwhelmed her. And it appeared that she lost the war. But did she? I see a host of victories that she has won!
For one thing — she has won our admiration — because even if she lost the war, we give her credit for her bravery on the battlefield. And we give her credit for the courage and pride and hope that she used as her weapons as long as she could.  Only God knows what this child of His suffered in the silent skirmishes. We shall remember not her death, but her daily victories gained through her kindnesses and thoughtfulness, through her love for family and friends, for animals and books and music, for all things beautiful, lovely and honorable. We shall remember the many days that she was victorious over overwhelming odds. We shall remember not the years we thought she had left, but the intensity with which she lived the years she had!”

I couldn’t have said it better.

The little things…

I’ve been in one of those modes recently where I’ve let the daily grind wear and tear me up.  I’m working too hard for too little money.  I’m beating myself up for not accomplishing the million tasks I think I should be doing. For all the bills that get paid a day too late. But here’s the thing: I’ve been worrying about stuff that, in the grand scheme of it all, doesn’t really matter.

Don’t get me wrong, daily life is stressful. It’s hard not to get caught up in it all. I’ve been in this place before,  I’ll be in this place again. But somewhere in the middle, I remember that I’m alive. I’m so lucky that every day I wake up, my eyes open. It’s all an adventure, the good and the bad. And I’m grateful to be along for the ride.

I try to remind myself that that from one moment to the next, every single second is unique. I will never be here, exactly as I am now, in this moment again.

I try to remind myself to worry less.

I try to remind myself to enjoy the ride a little more.

I try to remind myself that the problems of today, will soon enough be the problems of yesterday.

I will never be here, exactly here, again.

And I am so goddamn lucky to be here, to be my over-anxious, worry-riddled, carefree, reckless, shy, spotlight-lovin’ complex contradictory self.

I remind myself to appreciate it.

I remind myself not to let it slip by unnoticed – overshadowed by the daily grind and all my worries.

I read something recently that put all this philosophy into a pithy little sentence:

“How you spend your days is how you spend your life.”

My first thought was “Damn, I need watch less Netflix”. My second thought was “I am so not pithy. It takes me a million sentences to convey any point. I’m more the ‘long-winded’ type”. My third thought was “Netflix is the shit though”.

And I made a vow not to worry so much, to not to obsess about the things that are out of my control. That no matter my life circumstances, I will strive for happiness.

And also to forgive myself when I get sucked back into the daily stress. When I worry too much about the little things. To recognize that as an inevitability. To see it as human.

But I will strive to live my days with joyful abandon.

To make my days count.

To make my life count.

I’m here, after all.